Every Book I Read In 2014 (And What I Thought Of Them)

When I was having brunch on January 1st, 2013, I decided that, as an experiment, I would keep track of every book I read that year: every novel, every work of non-fiction, and every collection of poetry, short stories, and plays. (I was also going to keep track of every comic book collection and graphic novel as well, but that just made this list too unwieldy.)

What follows is a every book I read — be it the whole thing or just some part of it — in 2014, and what I thought of it at the time I read it. And I broke it down into categories because people like that kind of thing.

Enjoy.

 

FICTION

Karen Traviss: Halo: Mortal Dictata   Though not my favorite book by her — I prefer her Gears Of War books, to be honest — this was my favorite of her Halo trilogy in part because it was grittier and told a more personal story.

Henning Mankell: Faceless Killers   Wasn’t sure what I thought of this at first…until I realized I’d read the first seventy-five odd pages in one sitting. Now I want to read the rest of this series.

Robert A. Heinlein: The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress   Wasn’t as sci-fi-ish as I was expecting, but I dug its depth. Also glad it didn’t go all Animal Farm, which is where I thought it was going to go.

Ian Fleming: Goldfinger   Not my favorite of the Bond books, mostly because the ending seemed a little rushed, comparatively speaking. But still a fun read.

Goldfinger

 

Iain M. Banks: Use Of Weapons   Thoroughly enjoyed this epic sci-fi novel, especially how all of his “Culture” books feel like they’re part of a large universe even though their stories and characters are otherwise unrelated.

Adam Sternbergh: Shovel Ready    A solid mix of Philip K. Dick-ensian cyberpunk and Dashiel Hammett-y noir.

Marcel Proust: In Search Of Lost Time   While people much smarter than me have already commented on this epic novel — heck, half of the last volume is a commentary on the novel — I’ll just say that while I thought Proust was a little long-winded and pretentious at times, I still found it engrossing and well worth the read. Just not all at once; after finishing the second volume, I really needed a break. Which is why it took me ten months, off and on, to finish it.

Andy Weir: The Martian   So good. Even though I knew he was going to survive this disaster, I was still on edge with worry the whole time.

Justin Cronin: The Twelve   While I thought the first book in this series, The Passage, was much better — this meandered too much — it was still rather engrossing, and left me wondering how it was all going to end.

Henning Mankell: The Dogs Of Riga   His first Wallander book was better, mostly because it was darker, but this was still a fun read.

Ian Fleming: Thunderball   While the Bond books are always fun, some are more fun than others. Like this one, which I liked, though it wasn’t as action-packed or spy-ish — and thus as good — as some of the earlier ones.

Michelle Huneven: Off Course   While this started off strong — mostly because it reminded me of when my family would spend two weeks every summer living in a cabin in Maine or New Hampshire — it kind of lost steam around the middle and never recovered.

Jo Nesbø: The Bat   Well, this was a big disappointment. I was hoping for an edgy, pulpy crime novel, one that would be so good that I’d want to read the rest in this series. Instead, it was limp, cliché, and kind of dull. Ah well.

Henning Mankell: The White Lioness   While this was way better than the second Wallander mystery, I still prefer the first one, which was tighter and more brutal.

Mark Leyner: The Sugar Frosted Nutsack   Though this started off really strong, it kind of went up its own ass there for a while. Though it did recover nicely and ultimately ended strong.

book mark leyner

 

Robert Jackson Bennett: City Of Stairs   While this started off in a rather interesting way, it quickly lost steam, and thus lost my attention. Which is why I stopped when I got to page 38. Ah well.

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale    Man, this book was fucked up. It was really good, but it was also really messed up, and also scary in how it seems like it could actually happen, especially lately.

Ian Fleming: The Spy Who Loved Me   Easily the least interesting of the James Bond novels, mostly because Bond doesn’t show up in it until the end; it’s like the Godzilla Vs. The Sea Monster of the Bond books. Should’ve been a novella that was half the length.

Henning Mankell: The Man Who Smiled   Rather disappointed how Hollywood this got, especially the ending. Not sure I’ll read any more of his books after this.

Alain Robbe-Grillet: A Sentimental Novel   The review in The New Yorker said this was a fucked up book…and they weren’t kidding. Though it’s why I wanted to read it, so it’s not like I can complain. But yeah, this psycho-sexually torture tale was the most fucked up book I’ve ever read. I don’t feel like I read it, I feel like I endured it.

Ian Fleming: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service   If you’ve seen the movie, you know what to expect, as this was one of the most faithfully-adapted of the Bond novels I’ve read.

Jim Thompson: Heed The Thunder   This may be the least interesting book of his I’ve read. Certainly the least engaging.

Iain M. Banks: Excession    While I enjoyed this book, it was definitely not my favorite in this series, as it was too scattered and convoluted.

Philip K. Dick: The Man In The High Castle   Maybe my expectations were too high, but I didn’t enjoy this counter-factual novel nearly as much as I thought I would.

Chuck Palahniuk: Beautiful You   While I always like his stuff, and this was just as good as his other novels, I must admit I didn’t expect it to be a sexual as it was, making this if not a work of erotica then certainly erotica-adjacent. (You can read my full review here)

Ian Fleming: You Only Live Twice   Not my favorite of the Bond books. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either.

Katherine Angel: Unmastered: A Book On Desire, Most Difficult To Tell   Wow, this was a good one. A poetically written novel, this started off being brutally honest about sex but, towards the end, just became brutal…but in a good way.

Henning Mankell: Sidetracked   Though the ending was rushed and kind of abrupt, this was still the best Wallander mystery of the five I’ve read, and the best since the first one as well.

Brandon Sanderson: The Way Of Kings: The Stormlight Archive: Book One   Just a bit of light fantasy to finish out the year (he jokes, hoping the thousand page hardcover won’t give him a hernia). I’m just glad this is a quick read, and not another novel that’s as dense texturally as it is physically.

 

NON-FICTION

Jennet Conant: A Covert Affair: Julia Child And Paul Child In The OSS   So the whole reason I read this book was because it was supposed to be about Julia Child, the TV chef, worked for the OSS in World War II. But while it was, it was actually more about her friend Jane, who was later accused of being a commie. Which was interesting, but not what I wanted to read about.

Covert Affair cover

 

Henry Rollins: A Grim Detail: Destination Documentation And Multi-Continental Self Examination 2009-2010   As the title suggests, this is yet another collection of Rollins’ journal and travel stories. Which is all I ever want from him anyway.

Mary Roach: My Planet: Finding Humor In The Oddest Places   A collection of her columns from Reader’s Digest, this was less informative, but just as funny, and enjoyable as her great books.

Jules Feiffer: Backing Into Forward: A Memoir   Not surprisingly, this remembrance is as funny and engaging as his cartoons (of which I was a big fan of when I was young). But I also think even people who aren’t fans will like it.

Jill Lepore: The Secret History Of Wonder Woman   While it wasn’t as comic book focused as I expected, it was still really interesting and informative. (You can read my full review here)

Neil Peart: Far And Near: On Days Like These   I’ve been a fan of his travelogues for years, so I’m glad he’s done another collection of his sometimes philosophical, often humorous, and always interesting travel stories.

 

POETRY

Ron Padgett: Collected Poems   As with most career-surveying poetry collections, this is a mixed bag. Very mixed. Really like his narrative poems, when they don’t go too long; his other stuff, not so much.

Larry Eigner: The Collected Poems Of Larry Eigner: Volumes 1-4   It took me over two years to read it all — it’s four big hardcovers, 1691 pages, and I intentionally spread it out — but I finally finished reading the last volume in July. Not everything was great, of course, but I did like his style, often more than his subjects.

Larry Eigner

 

Robert Creeley: The Collected Poems Of Robert Creeley: 1945-1975   Yet another poet who style is solid even when his subject matter isn’t. Really glad there’s a second volume of his stuff for me to read.

Jack Gilbert: Collected Poems   Solid stuff, real lyrically, even when he was being narrative. It’s too bad there isn’t more of it.

Karen Kevorkian: Lizard Dream   While I liked her style, none of the poems here really jumped out at me.

Ron Koertge: The Ogre’s Wife: Poems   I usually don’t like funny poems, but his darkly comic narrative poems not only tell interesting tales, but they’re perfectly complimented by his conversational style.

Death Poems: Classic, Contemporary, Witty, Serious, Tear-Jerking, Wise, Profound, Angry, Funny, Spiritual, Atheistic, Uncertain, Personal, Political, Mythic, Earthy, And Only Occasionally Morbid   Though it started slow, this anthology really picked up about mid-way through when I got the sections on animals and violence.

Robert Creeley: The Collected Poems Of Robert Creeley: 1975-2005   While I was excited to read this second volume after finishing the first, so far I think the poems in the first are better.

Jimmy Santiago Baca: Singing At The Gates: Selected Poems  Long one of my favorite poets, I was especially excited to read this collection because it included many of his early works I hadn’t read before.

Douglas Kearney: Fear, Some   While some of these poems might work at a reading, most of them were forgettable or awkward or just blah.

Alan Dugan: Poems Seven: New And Complete Poetry   Jury’s still out on this one. Some of it’s good, some is okay, but nothing has blown me away.

Rita Mae Reese: The Alphabet Conspiracy   While this wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great either. Just kind of there.

Todd Davis: In The Kingdom Of The Ditch   Well, this was pretty dull. Especially the middle section, which was largely poems about Henry David Thoreau.

Linda Pastan: Traveling Light   Really solid stuff. Will have to read more of her work.

Frederick Seidel: Nice Weather   While this was mostly good brutal stuff from someone who’s edgy without trying to be edgy, I’m concerned that so many of the poems in the latter half were rhyming. I hope this isn’t an indication of things to come in his next collection.

book seidel

 

Bill Rasmovicz: Gross Ardor   While this had some interesting poems, I found myself more into how he wrote than what he wrote about. Which, I’ve noticed, happens a lot with contemporary poets.

Sophie Cabot Black: The Exchange     While this had some good stuff, it didn’t have enough to make me want to read her other collections.

Eileen Myles: Not Me   Love her conversational style and her raw imagery. Sometimes her narrative loses me for a moment, but it’s still vivid stuff.

Franz Wright: Earlier Poems   I’ve been a fan of his for a while, but I’ve never read anything so early in his oeuvre. And while some of it was really good, I prefer his later work.

Linda Pastan: Queen Of A Rainy Country   As I said earlier, I wanted to read more of her work. This book was just as good as her first, save for some individual poems at the end.

Linh Dinh: Some Kind Of Cheese Orgy   While this was rather uneven, especially at the end, a lot of it was really strong, with good imagery and wording. Will check out more of his stuff later.

Shurooq Amin: The Hanging Of The Wind And Other Poems   Saw her on Al Jazeera (at least I think it was Al Jazeera), and thought she was interesting and thoughtful. Glad to say the same about her poems, even if this chapbook was a little short.

Jim Powell: Substrate   While this started strong, it got progressively worse until the last third became unreadably bad. Ah well.

Joseph Ceravolo: Collected Poems   Though I only read the first hundred pages or so — I like to spread out big collections like this, especially when it’s the only one of someone I’ll ever get to read — his poems have already grabbed me.

Olena Kalytiak Davis: Shattered Sonnets, Love Cards, And Other Off And Back Handed Importunities   Really digging her imagery and word choice, so I’ll have to check out more of her stuff.

 

SHORT STORIES

John Cheever: The Stories Of John Cheever   While I’ve liked some of these short stories, so far I haven’t liked enough of them to make me want to read any of his novels.

Joyce Carol Oates: The Museum Of Dr. Moses   An interesting collection of stories that often walked a fine (and creepy) line between horror and reality.

T.C. Boyle: Stories   This is my first foray into Boyle’s oeuvre, and while the plots of his novels don’t interest me, his short stories — at least many of the ones in this collection — are quite good.

Ian Fleming: For Your Eyes Only   A couple of these short James Bond stories were good, but I prefer the novels.

Robert E. Howard: The Conquering Sword Of Conan   The third (and, sadly, final) collection of Conan stories. Such good stuff; I’m just sorry he didn’t write a lot more.

every book i read in 2014

 

J.G. Ballard: The Complete Stories Of J.G. Ballard   A true master of smart sci-fi, this collection has some wonderful — and wonderfully twisted — stories.

Ian Fleming: Octopussy And The Living Daylights   While three of the four short James Bond stories in this book were good, with them only adding up to a hundred pages, it’s hard not to think they should’ve just been included in the novels where they fit chronologically.

Iain M. Banks: The State Of The Art   Got it to just read the “Culture” stories, but those have been so good — especially the titular novella — that I may end up reading the rest at some point.

Burnt Tongues: An Anthology Of Transgressive Stories   While I’ve dug quite a few of the stories in this collection, none have jumped out as being so exceptional that I want to read more by that specific author….yet.

 

PLAYS

Sarah Kane: Complete Plays   A gift from my friend Steve, who said he got it for me because it was fucked up. He wasn’t wrong. Granted, two of the plays were too pretentious for my taste, but the other four were great.

Arthur Miller: The Crucible   As much as I enjoyed reading this play, I also found it infuriating because — despite being sixty years old and set hundreds of years before that — it’s still sadly relevant.

 

There you have it, every page I turned in 2014. Physically speaking, of course.

So, what did you read last year? Let me know in the comments section below.

 

3 thoughts on “Every Book I Read In 2014 (And What I Thought Of Them)

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  • January 6, 2015 at 6:32 am
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    Favorite books I read last year were Want Not by Jonathan Miles and The Painter by Peter Heller. The only reason I even read these books was to prepare for meeting these authors at a reader retreat called Booktopia (this particular one was in Boulder, CO in May). I love it when your favorites end up being something you never would have picked up on your own. Thanks for the list, Paul!

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